Life experiences, much like the puzzle-solving prowess of Sherlock Holmes, serve as essential building blocks that sharpen our problem-solving skills.
What we go through shapes our ability to unravel the mysteries that lie before us.
Holmes relied on his many encounters and observations to crack the most perplexing cases.
We can also harness the transformative power of our experiences to become adept problem solvers in the intricate game of life.
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Life is full of problems, so having the ability to solve them is critical to survival.
The real question is, “Do we learn from experience?”
Most mental health professionals agree that there are five stages of change:
Each relates to the ability to solve problems based on life experiences.
To use them in problem-solving, you need to recognize that a problem exists and at least be ready to plan for action.
The 10 points below will help you to examine life experiences and use them as a starting point for action.
1. Consider your life experiences.
You have likely faced some form of a problem before in your life.
Even though you may not have liked the outcome, the experience will provide insight into things to do or not to do in the future.
If you can identify some problem-solving strategies that didn’t work in the past, then you can eliminate them from your list of choices.
2. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.
Problem-solving can be a complex process with many steps.
For example: if you are trying to solve a dilemma related to credit card debt, the chances are that you will have to take multiple actions to achieve your goal.
It is also likely that you have encountered some issues with finance before and have attempted some changes.
Instead of disregarding your efforts, examine which parts of your strategy worked and which didn’t.
Build on your successful efforts and eliminate the ones that didn’t work.
3. Use a solution-focused lens.
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When a problem arises, you might say to yourself, “here we go again.”
By taking that approach, you are immersing yourself in negative life experiences and will likely find yourself stuck and unable to act.
Instead, look for exceptions to the problem.
Are there times that you have been successful in the past?
What would things look like once the issue is solved?
Looking for solutions rather than focusing on the problem will move you in the right direction.
Start by reworking that internal voice that is suggesting defeat.
- “this problem can be solved,”
- “each problem I face is an opportunity to learn or improve,”
- “I have the ability to make good decisions.”
Changing your self-talk will be a great step toward changing the lens you use to view problems.
4. Reduce emotional decision-making.
If you have ever made a decision based on your emotional reaction, you will likely have some advice for others about distancing yourself from the problem to make a good choice.
Emotions cloud our judgment, lead to poor problem-solving, or worsen a predicament.
Allow some time in the decision-making process.
Instead of making a rash decision, distance yourself from the middle of the problem and consider various solutions.
You can likely come up with some examples from your life experiences that will guide you in the right direction.
5. Trust your intuition based on your life experiences.
Intuition is different from emotion.
The sense of understanding operates automatically within us without going through a conscious evaluation.
In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discussed the notion of trained or expert intuition.
According to Gladwell, intuition is based on experience or training and can be an excellent source for decision-making and problem-solving.
For example: as a mental health counselor, I often have intuitions about underlying problems my clients may face – even before they tell me about them.
That intuition is based on years of experience and typically turns out to be accurate.
When facing problems and having some level of intuition about how to act, consider the source of the intuition and how it can help you solve the problem.
6. Clarify the nature of the problem.
Problems can sometimes be quite perplexing.
From a psychological perspective, patterns of behavior or thinking often lead us to repeating problems.
If we want to change those patterns, it is important to take the current predicament and analyze its nature.
Consider if the problem has been something repetitive and what contributes to that pattern.
For example: if you have been in a series of bad relationships and have been treated poorly in each one, what leads you to select those partners?
What is the underlying drive for interest in someone who treats you poorly?
Your life experiences are the clues that will help you to make a significant change with these types of patterns.
7. Be persistent.
Recognize that almost all of life’s problems are solvable.
Take some time to review your life experiences, especially those where significant problems arose.
A common theme will be that the problem likely passed and that some sort of solution was employed.
By reviewing times when issues were resolved naturally, you can change how you view current problems.
Know that persistence is the main key in most instances.
If one solution doesn’t work, it just means it wasn’t the right one.
Keep trying, and the problem will eventually be solved.
8. Choose your battles.
Not every problem has to be tackled immediately or at all.
When I work with parents, I often tell them to choose battles wisely and to win the battles they take on.
For example: if a parent is tired and doesn’t have the energy to fight with their child over buying candy at the store, I suggest they give in immediately and decide to fight the battle another day.
If they are resolute about the child not having any, then regardless of how tired they are, they should not give in.
The same goes for couples.
There are levels of problems, and you must determine which ones require energy and which can be forgotten.
Look at some of the battles you have engaged in your life.
You will see that some of them were not worth the effort.
Help that analysis to drive your current problem-solving.
You will be much happier if you limit the battles you take on.
9. Consider multiple elements of your life experiences.
When faced with a problem, you will likely have an immediate emotional reaction.
Because there have been times that you have likely faced the same issue before, consider all of the various elements of your life experiences that can help you come to a solution.
Take some time to sift through memories, events, learning, and other resources of information that you have accumulated to drive the problem-solving process.
You already have most of the tools needed – just give yourself the credit you deserve and use them at your disposal.
10. Be proactive.
Most of us find ourselves amid a hole in the ground and say, “how did I get here” or “how did I get here again.”
To really take advantage of life experiences, it is important to conduct some self-evaluation and take proactive steps to prevent concerns from becoming problems.
Because self-evaluation can be difficult, I often suggest that people consider mental health counseling to help develop a protective approach.
If you haven’t ever tried counseling, you might be surprised to find out how good it feels to have someone dedicated to listening to you, helping you to be self-sufficient, and enhancing your overall wellness.
Selecting a counselor is the same as selecting any other professional; you must find one who matches your particular needs and personality style.
If the first counselor you try doesn’t give you what you need, find one that does.
In the end, this is about your happiness.
If you haven’t yet, this short guide should hopefully point you in the right path.
Our life will always be full of problems.
But believe in yourself.
As they say, when in doubt, retrace your steps.
In this case, use whatever you learned in your life experiences to help you overcome obstacles.
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.